7 Hidden Benefits of IT Security Compliance for Your Business

Posted by on May 14, 2019

IT Security Compliance

As data breaches become increasingly common, even among the world's largest companies, maintaining the security and privacy of customers is a growing area of concern for businesses and the IT organizations that support them. In the context of IT security, compliance means ensuring that your organization meets the standards for data privacy and security that apply to your specific industry.

IT organizations that are mandated to create systems that protect the security and privacy of their customer data will incur costs while doing so, but it must acknowledged that there are also significant benefits to IT security compliance. Beyond maintaining an industry-specific compliance certification and avoiding costly data breaches, here are seven hidden benefits of IT security compliance for your business.

1. Security Compliance Helps You Avoid Fines and Penalties

IT organizations need to be aware of the existing compliance laws that are applicable to their specific industries. In North America, Europe, and around the world, lawmakers are increasingly imposing legislation that protects the security and privacy of personal data collected by private companies and organizations. Violating these laws can lead to severe fines and penalties, but IT organizations with robust security compliance functions have the opportunity to avoid these issues by adequately securing the data they collect. Some of the most common security compliance frameworks include:

HIPAA - The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in the United States in 1996 and imposes a number of regulations for companies that handle patient data in the healthcare sector. All companies that handle healthcare data in American are responsible for securing the collected information in compliance with HIPAA. Penalties for non-compliance can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation, with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million annually. 

GDPR - The European General Data Protection Act (GDPR) is applied to all companies that process the personal data of people who live in the European Union, even companies that are physically based outside of Europe. The legislation was designed to protect European citizens from data breaches by forcing companies to require consent to collect data, anonymize data, notify their customers of data breaches and enforcing the "right to be forgotten." Companies that fail to comply can face massive fines equaling four percent of their global turnover, or 20 million euros, whichever is higher.

PCI-DSS - All companies handling credit card information are subject to the regulations put forward in the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DDS). This standard is administered and enforced by the PCI Security Standards Council, an organization created by Visa, Mastercard, and other payment brands. When merchants fail to comply with the PCI-DDS, their payment brand may fine them between $5,000 and $100,000 per month, amounts that can cripple a small business.

To avoid costly fines and penalties, IT organizations must comply with the security standards and regulations that apply to their specific industry.

RELATED: How to Select the Right ISMS Software for Your Organization

2. Security Compliance Protects Your Business Reputation

Data breaches are becoming increasingly common in the 21st century. A look at the top 10 data breaches of all time reveals nine out of the 10 attacks listed were executed in the past decade:

  1. Heartland Payment Systems was compromised in May 2008, with hackers stealing the personal and payment information for over 100 million people.
  2. Target was hacked in November 2013, resulting in the theft of personal data pertaining to 110 million customers.
  3. An eBay hack in 2014 resulted in the theft of personal information pertaining to 145 million customers.
  4. The infamous Equinox data breach of May 2014 saw hackers gain possession of credit data for nearly 150 million people.
  5. Under Armour was hacked in February 2018, with data from 150 million customers falling into the hands of hackers.
  6. Social networking pioneer MySpace was compromised in May 2016, with hackers stealing data from 360 million accounts.
  7. Adult FriendFinder apparently lacked adequate data security, as hackers penetrated their systems in October 2016 and stole data from 412 million users.
  8. An attack on Yahoo in late 2014 revealed that even the largest technology/web companies can be vulnerable to nefarious actors, who in this case stole data from more than 500 million accounts.
  9. Repeated attacks on Marriott Hotels data resulted in hackers stealing data from 500 million of their customers over a four-year period beginning in 2014.
  10. The largest data breach in history occurred when Yahoo was first hacked in 2013 and hackers stole the data from 3 billion user accounts.

Data breaches do harm to a company's reputation, undermine trust between the organization and its customers, and send the message that the company is untrustworthy and does not take appropriate steps to protect the privacy and security of its customers. Beyond the tremendous costs and penalties associated with data breaches, companies find themselves in the position of having to notify customers about the breach and hopefully repair the relationship. IT organizations that prioritize data security can protect the reputation of their organizations for trustworthiness and best practices in protecting customer privacy.

3. Security Compliance Enhances Your Data Management Capabilities

For most IT organizations, maintaining compliance with data security standards starts with keeping track of what sensitive information they hold about customers and developing the capabilities to access and modify that information in a streamlined way. 

For example, companies that are subject to the European GDPR must facilitate the right of their customers to access data that they have collected. Compliant companies are required by the GDPR to provide, upon request of the user, any personal information stored about that user, along with information about how the data is being used and where it is stored. This means that the company must know where the data is stored and be able to access the data in a timely fashion.

Under the GDPR, companies must only collect data from users who opt-in to the data collection process, and must have the capability to "forget" a user when requested, erasing all of their personal data and agreeing to stop disseminating that data to third parties.

These requirements are leading IT organizations to redesign their data management processes in a way that supports not only privacy, but improved operational efficiency. IT organizations can begin by auditing their existing data systems to verify whether customers have opted-in to their data collection program. Following an audit, companies can purge data files for customers that did not opt-in—files that likely have no business value—and implement organizational systems to make the data indexed and searchable. These systems can be used to further segment the data, adding additional value and even revealing new marketing opportunities.

RELATED: What Is an Information Security Management System (ISMS) & How Should It Be Implemented?

4. Security Compliance Puts You in Good Company

IT organizations that have invested significant time and resources to maintain compliance with industry-specific data security guidelines are typically hesitant to partner with organizations that have not done the same. 

Just put yourself in their shoes: Would you want to spend time and money on protecting the security and privacy of your customers, along with the reputation of your firm, only for a contracted service provider with poor data security practices to leak your customer's information in a data breach? 

If I'm an organization that complies with PCI-DDS, I understand the importance of protecting customer payment information and I'm looking for partners that understand that as well. If I'm a Health Plan that is subject to HIPAA laws, I'm looking to deal with a healthcare clearinghouse that has a history of HIPAA compliance and won't compromise the security and privacy of the plan members we are serving together. If I'm subject to the European GDPR, I'm looking for partners that are also ready to comply and follow the relevant laws.

Maintaining IT security compliance demonstrates to prospective partners in your industry that you have done your due diligence to protect the security of the data you collect. This bolsters your reputation and image, helping them perceive you as an industry-leader in security and a trustworthy partner in business.

5. Security Compliance Yields Insights That Promote Operational Benefits

When IT organizations implement security tools and applications to satisfy the privacy requirements in their industry, they frequently expose poorly managed personnel, assets, or other resources that can be redeployed to enhance operational efficiency.

A company seeking to comply with the European GDPR might begin by auditing the data they collect on customers. Perhaps the company has data on 100,000 visitors to their website, but it becomes clear that just 20,000 people actually opted in to the data collection process. By purging the rest of this data, the organization can reduce its data storage costs with respect to this list. It can also compare the demographics of the opt-in list to that of the original list to determine whether the differences between them warrant a shift in marketing strategy when promoting the company to the opt-in list. It may be able to save money on promotions and re-marketing efforts by focusing its resources on its core customers that have been identified by their opt-in status.

Security monitoring tools can also be deployed on the IT organization's internal network. These tools may detect people, processes, or applications on the network that are inadequately managed or poorly configured to drive results.

6. Effective Security Compliance Enhances Company Culture

Organizations that collect data from their customers in 2019 have a unique opportunity to enhance their corporate culture through the adoption of cutting-edge security compliance measures that meet or exceed the applicable standards or regulations and demonstrate industry leadership in information security. 

Organizations can construct an internal corporate culture and an external corporate identity around the importance that they place on the privacy and security of customers, positioning their organization as one that "does the right thing," "takes security seriously," "invests in the security and privacy of employees and customers," and "sees data security as a matter of pride and trust, not a legal obligation."

At a time when so many large, multinational corporations have had to report data breaches to millions of their users, organizations can garner loyalty from their employees and foster a collective sense of pride as they take the appropriate steps to protect customer data. This sense of pride in a strong security mission and culture can translate into better internal compliance with daily security compliance requirements and stronger adherence to company policies that support data security and limit risk.

7. Security Compliance Supports Access Controls and Accountability

An effective system for IT security compliance ensures that only individuals with the appropriate credentials can access the secure systems and databases that contain sensitive customer data. IT organizations that implement security monitoring systems must ensure that access to those systems is monitored at an organization level, and that actions within the system are logged such that they can be traced to their origin.

This type of monitoring is a necessary step to prevent opportunistic data breaches from occurring. The organization should maintain a list of approved persons in the company that can access the data, and the list should be reviewed regularly to account for role and status changes among employees. IT organizations can also integrate the removal of security clearances into off-boarding processes for all employees of the business, ensuring that no former employees retain access to the company's systems in ways that could lead to a data breach.

These mechanisms are effective at protecting the security of both customer data and the organization's own proprietary data that it may want to avoid publicizing. Further, the concept of a single user being assigned specific access credentials for a secure application on their machine is also applicable for the security and maintenance of software license agreements (SLAs). Organizations can use their security compliance requirements to promote and enforce compliance with software SLAs.

Cherwell ISMS Supports IT Security Compliance for Enterprise Organizations

Cherwell's Information Security Management System (ISMS) application makes it easy for IT organizations to reduce the massive risk associated with data breaches while streamlining compliance with the applicable requirements and improving incident response when a threat, vulnerability, or breach is detected.

In addition to seamless integration with Cherwell's award-winning ITSM platform, Cherwell ISMS offers a unified dashboard for IT organizations to govern risk and compliance, automated response capabilities for security events and incidents, and a simplified means of complying with the European GDPR. With Cherwell, organizations can manage and track security events throughout their entire life cycle, connecting them with incident and event reports to expedite solutions and improve outcomes while limiting risk.

Learn more about how Cherwell can bring your organization to the cutting edge of information security and privacy compliance in 2019.

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